The Rip Van Winkle Effect


I am reading a fascinating book called Becoming a Visible Man by Jamison Green. The book is about female to male transgender men and it is a wonderful book. In it, Green quotes another man’s experience awakening to who he is, and it is very similar to what gay men go through who come out later in life.

Green writes, quoting Jeff, a journalist who began to transition in 1994 at the age of forty-three: “You wake up and look around for the feelings you had back when you fell asleep, and your forty-year-old psyche is having to do a real high-speed personality integration, as opposed to what most people get to do over the time of their adolescence.”

I felt something very much similar when I began to come out as a gay man. I went into a marriage and my true self went to sleep for twenty-two years. When I began to come out of my marriage and come out as gay, it felt like I was waking from a long slumber. My true self began to emerge. I felt like a teenager again discovering all the things I have missed over the years but doing so in a 55 year old body. It is such a strange conundrum, but until I read the quote from Green, did not have a great way to describe it.

It was not just the physical awakening, it was also the “high-speed personality integration” that goes on as you reorient yourself as a gay or bi man after years of outwardly and possibly inwardly being, thinking, acting like a ‘straight’ man. I felt this happen when I came out and was determined to ‘transition’ as quickly as possible. Three and a half years later I am still ‘integrating’, which I suspect is a lifelong process.

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